Ambar Picazo is a member of the SkillCorps Dominican Republic team, currently in the field!
It really is incredible to think how much can happen when motivation meets enthusiasm! I sit here, in this empty therapy room at the Aprendo centre and all I hear around me is celebration. Exhilarated applause and cheers of congratulations erupt from behind the doors of the different therapy rooms. Sounds of therapists and children sharing the joy of their hard work and perseverance.
During our time here, I have never met a group of people so hungry for criticism. I remember sitting in and observing one of my first session and praising the therapist for what she was doing well. Her response was “okay, but…” and she proceeded to seek out corrective feedback. She wanted me to tell her what she could do better. I had the pleasure of spending considerable time with this therapist, and one of the clients that she worked with every day. She spent hours of her free time with me discussing her session, what she could do better, what she could do to change her technique to better help her little guys. When I expressed my gratitude to her for being so open to my feedback and so receptive to the concepts we were discussing, and she said to me “I change myself so I can help to change [them]”. She spent her time when she was not in session to learn from videos I had taken of her, to role play preference assessments and error correction with me, to learn how to create task analysis so that she could break down the tasks she taught into smaller more teachable tasks, and to learn more about shaping and differential reinforcement. I have never had such an eager and attentive audience!
She wanted to learn, so that when we were gone, she could continue to grow her skills and be the conduit through which potential became reality for the little ones she worked with. The same was true of all of the therapists that we observed!
During our nightly de-brief and discussions about the day, every person had similar stories about how the staff at Aprendo were so eager to learn and so quick to implement the suggestions that they were given. Each evening we discussed what went well, and what we could change for the next day as we created our plans of action. These discussions were so thought provoking and enjoyable that there were only one or two nights that these discussions ended before 10pm.
There is something to be said about the inspiring and therapeutic effect of collaborating with professionals who not only have an incredible amount of knowledge to share, but also spend as much time laughing as they spend discussing and disseminating. Each bringing their own bit of amazing to the dynamic, these ladies made this experience exactly what it needed to be.
Just sixteen days ago, what genuinely feels like lifetime ago, I was walking into the New York office of the Global Autism Project full of expectations. And now have each of those expectations shattered, in the best way possible, I sit here on my second to last day, listening to the products of our collaboration and thinking about what it will be like to return to my regularly scheduled program.